Toyota Matrix 2009-2014: problems, fuel economy, engine choices, photos

Updated: May 06, 2020

The Toyota Matrix is the most practical small wagon. Sharing its platform with the Corolla, the Matrix offers 49.4 cubic feet of flat cargo space covered by durable plastic.

2012 Toyota Matrix interior
2012 Toyota Matrix interior.

It's also one of the few small cars suitable for tall drivers, as it has plenty of headroom. The upright driving position makes the entry and exit easy and provides excellent visibility. The Toyota Matrix with a 1.8L engine is very fuel efficient. Is the Toyota Matrix reliable? What are the problems that Matrix owners report?

Reported problems: Water pump failures have been reported by many owners. The cost to replace it varies from $380 to $540; it's not a very difficult job. Symptoms of a bad water pump include pinkish fluid leak on the passenger side of the engine compartment. Sometimes a bad water pump will produce a grinding or screeching noise when failing. When replacing a water pump, it's a good idea to change the drive belt as well. Watch these videos about water pump replacement.

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The service bulletin T-SB-0087-09 for the 2009 Corolla / Matrix describes a brief knocking/rattling noise from the 2ZR engine when started cold.

2012 Toyota Matrix rear seats folded
2012 Toyota Matrix rear seats folded

According to the bulletin, it's caused by a faulty camshaft timing gear assembly (VVT gear). The VVT gear must be replaced to correct the problem. The repair costs from $380 to $590. There are a few videos on Youtube showing the repair.
A faulty starter motor can cause the vehicle not to start; it would only produce a single click. In cases like this, the battery must be tested first. Replacing a starter motor will cost from $250 to $420; it's also a fairly simple job.
Minor oil leaks from the timing cover are reported often; watch these videos about repairs.
Toyota issued Warranty Enhancement Program ZE7 to address excessive oil consumption in the 2AZ engine. Check with a Toyota dealer if your vehicle is eligible. This forum has some information.
There have been numerous complaints about stripped threads in the cylinder block for the head bolts in the 2AZ 2.4L engine. The repair is expensive. Watch this video.
A failed ignition coil can cause the engine to misfire. The part is not very expensive. It's a good idea to replace all the spark plugs if they are old together with the ignition coil. Rear brakes can wear prematurely if not serviced regularly; to prevent brake calipers from seizing up, brakes must be serviced at least once a year.
Struts and wheel bearings can fail at higher mileage. Replacing one wheel bearing costs from $260 to $370. The cost to replace both front struts is around $580-$780.
Check for recalls at the NHTSA website.

Engines: The base engine is a 132-hp 1.8L DOHC 2ZR-FE (same as in the Corolla).

Toyota Matrix 1.8L engine
2012 Toyota Matrix 1.8L engine larger view

It's a durable engine that can last long with good care. Watch this video about the Toyota Corolla with over 500,000 miles; it has the same engine.
An optional 158-hp 2.4L 4-cylinder 2AZ-FE engine was available in S, XRS and XR (Canada) trims. There were some complaints about the oil consumption and stripped threads in the cylinder block. The 1.8L engine is a more reliable choice in our view, although it needs to be maintained regularly to last.

Timing belt or chain? Both, the 2ZR-FE and 2AZ-FE use a maintenance-free timing chain; there is no timing belt. The timing chain only needs to be replaced if it's stretched.

Fuel economy The EPA rates the 2009-2013 1.8L Matrix with a manual transmission at 26 mpg (9.0 L/100 km) city and 32 mpg highway (7.4 L/100 km). The 1.8L Matrix auto gets 25 mpg city, 31 mpg highway. This means that on a long trip, you can travel in the 1.8L Matrix with an automatic transmission for up to 396 miles (697 km) on one tank of gas. The 2009-2019 Matrix with a 2.4L engine auto is rated at 21/29 mpg.

Handling and ride: The Matrix handles well, with responsive steering and a good road feel. The ride is comfortable, but you will hear some engine noise on acceleration, as well as some road noise.

2012 Toyota Matrix
2012 Toyota Matrix. Click for a larger photo

The 1.8L engine is peppy for daily driving, but feels a bit underpowered when fully loaded.

Lineup: In the U.S., the 2009 Matrix came in Base, S and XRS trim levels, although for 2012, only the base L and sporty S models were available. In Canada, the lineup consisted of the Base, XR, XRS and AWD models. 2013 was the last model year available in the U.S. In Canada, the Matrix was discontinued after 2014.

Mechanical: Transmission choices include a five-speed manual or four- or five-speed automatic. All-wheel drive is only available with a 2.4L engine and an automatic transmission. Antilock brakes are standard. Vehicle Stability Control and Traction Control were optional in earlier models; standard from 2010 in the U.S. and from 2011 in Canada.

Pros: Reliability, plenty of headroom, up-right driving position, flat cargo space, fuel economy (for the 1.8L model), easy handling, comfortable ride.

Cons: Interior materials and quality could be better, sensitive to strong side winds, thick rear pillars create blind spots in the back, the A/C is not very strong, problems with 2.4L engine.


Overall: The Matrix is a practical fuel efficient low-maintenance wagon. It's a good vehicle to take on a long trip. With the addition of a roof rack and some special gear, the Matrix can transport two kayaks or a canoe. The 1.8L engine is a better choice, as it's good on gas and can last long with good maintenance. As of May 2020, Consumer Reports rates only the 2010 Toyota Matrix as Recommended. The 2009 Matrix is rated 'Average' for reliability. Newer model years were not rated.

Similar cars: Pontiac Vibe is the mechanical twin of the Matrix, but it was discontinued after 2010. The Honda Fit is smaller and has a firmer ride, but is otherwise practical and reliable too. The Toyota Corolla is pretty much the same car. The Mazda 3 is also reliable; it offers sportier handling and a more upscale interior, but the interior space is tight. Honda Civic is more sporty and is more fuel efficient on the highway, but seats are low to the floor, making entry and exit more difficult. The Nissan Versa and Sentra are less reliable. Dodge Caliber is larger but also less reliable.

Maintenance tips: The 2012 Toyota Matrix owner's manual recommends using 0W-20 oil, which is synthetic. For the 1.8L 2ZR-FE engine, the U.S. Toyota Matrix Warranty & Maintenance Guide recommends changing oil every 10,000 miles for normal driving conditions and 5,000 for special operating conditions (repeated short trips, excessive idling, etc.) if 0W-20 oil is used. Our advice: changing the oil every 5,000 miles will help keep your engine in good shape longer. The Canadian maintenance schedule recommends changing oil every 8,000 km. Other common maintenance items include: tire rotation at every oil change, air and cabin filters every 20-30K miles, transmission fluid change every 40-50K miles, spark plugs every 80-120K miles. For details, check the full maintenance schedule or download the owner's manual at: Toyota Owners

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Toyota Matrix specifications (2012 model)

Overall length:
Overall width:
Overall height:
Headroom: (w/o sunroof)

171.9 in. (4,365 mm)
69.5 in. (1,765 mm)
61.0 in. (1,550 mm)
102.4 in. (2,600 mm)

40.5 in.
39.3 in.

41.6 in.
36.2 in.
Seating Capacity:


Cargo volume:

Behind Front seat: 49.4 cu. ft (1,400 liters)
Behind Rear seat: 19.8 cu. ft (560 liters)
L (US), Base (Canada):

S (US), AWD and XRS (Canada):

1.8-liter, 4-Cylinder, DOHC, 16-Valve, Dual VVT-i
132 hp @ 6,000 rpm
128 lb. ft. @ 4,400 rpm

2.4-liter, 4-Cylinder, DOHC, 16-Valve, VVT-i
158 hp @ 6,000 rpm
162 lb. ft. @ 4,000 rpm

Recommended Fuel: 87 Unleaded

Fuel Tank Capacity:

11.0 US gal (50.0 liters)

Engine Oil Capacity:
Drain and refill with filter
1.8L 2ZR-FE engine:
2.4L 2AZ-FE engine:

4.4 US qt. (4.2 L)
4.0 US qt. (3.8 L)

By Staff